MALAKYE Cunningham says playing with freedom is allowing him to make an impact for Warrnambool Seahawks.
The teenage basketballer sank a career-high 28 points in the Seahawks' confidence-boosting 100-71 win against Big V rival Coburg Giants on Saturday night.
He topped the Seahawks' scoring with James Mitchell (19) and Alex Gynes (16) also influential.
"I am probably playing less from my head and more out of my heart I guess," Cunningham said.
"I am trying not to be as hard on myself when I get on the court and am trying to let the game come to me more and just playing more free."
Cunningham, 17, shot six three-pointers in the Seahawks' first game since the most recent COVID-19 statewide lockdown.
The Warrnambool College student wants to make finals and "continue to play the game I know I am capable of".
"It was the best thing for me because not playing is really hard for me because basketball is the only thing I really do," he said.
Gynes, who coaches the Seahawks, said Cunningham was adding to his repertoire.
"He found himself penetrating and getting into the paint early on and then when we opened up the court for him he was able to knock down a few open threes which was fantastic," he said.
"He was also pretty aggressive on the rebounds. If he can build on those multiple aspects of his game, he'll find himself improving significantly."
Point guard Liam Osborne stepped up in Benson Steere's absence with 10 assists and James Mitchell had a double-double with 14 rebounds to complement his 16 points.
"Our ball movement was really good and 'Ossie' had like 11 assists and we were just piggy-backing off that," Cunningham said.
Gynes said Steere missed after having his wisdom teeth out earlier in the week, which gave Osborne an opportunity to play run the point all game.
"He got thrown into the starting role. His vision (was great) and he found cutters and got us through our offences," he said.
Ollie Bidmade took soreness into the game and was restricted to less than three minutes on court.
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